Using data from the Survey of Health and Living Status of the Elderly in Taiwan, we investigate changes in difficulties in walking and climbing stairs, tasks that represent basic lower-body movements less likely to be influenced by changes in environment and social roles than are activities and instrumental activities of daily living. Results are shown for unadjusted prevalence rates and rates adjusted for changes in population composition. The findings indicate that Taiwan does not appear to be experiencing the improvements in functioning witnessed recently in the United States. Prevalence of functional limitation increased between 1993 and 1996 and between 1996 and 1999. One possible reason is the change in old-age survival, which appears to have benefited those who have functional limitations, especially in a severe form. The Universal Health Insurance programme, established in 1995, may have increased access to care and thus the survival of those in poorest health.